The following list includes waves that are considered both the most breathtaking and terrifying on the planet. These waves can be beautiful and bone-crushing all at once. Even the most skilled watermen and women tread lightly when they shred out here. From sharks to cliffs to currents, see why these seven places are home to the world's deadliest waves.
Down in Hout Bay in Cape Town, giant Atlantic swells get whipped up, thanks to multiple reefs, along with a deep reef break. While the size and force of the waves isn't exactly jaw-dropping, it's their location that puts them in the danger zone. If you get a chance to ride this right-hand break, you'll have to brave elements both in and out of the water. The enormous cliffs surrounding every inch of this break is enough to make any surfer uneasy. Add chilly waters and a hefty population of the planet's most dangerous sharks and you have yourself a triple whammy. At least there won't be a crowded lineup to contend with.
You can find this super top-heavy left break on the southwest tip of the island nation of Tahiti. The name Teahupo'o translates roughly to "to sever the head", and for good reason. Most of this wave's power and force is on its top half, making it a one-of-a-kind swell. The wave makes it look like the ocean is folding on top of itself. With a sharp coral reef not too far below the surface, this is a recipe for disaster. Keep an eye on the swells from the southwest here. They're the winds that build the biggest waves.
Located off the southeastern coast of Tasmania, the waves here have the famous "stair steps" look. The break pulls the water with such force off of the reef that the wave face starts to resemble the ocean floor below. This unique characteristic can easily confuse a surfer and throw them clean off the wave. Shipstern's waves are a product of storm systems that the area absorbs. These storms are usually generated by the infamous "furious 50s". These are icy South Pole winds that tend to build the swells up to epic proportions. The weather here doesn't help any either. Cloudy skies and chilly waters make this spot even more unfavorable.
Many consider this spot to be home to the largest rideable waves on the planet. It's home to a myriad of shipwrecks, rogue waves and dangerous shark species, to boot. Sharp pieces of downed ships lie just out if sight, below the surface. If you're looking to shred here, you'll need a boat. The Cortes Bank is about 100 miles off the coast of Southern California. It's essentially in the middle of nowhere, so you won't have anywhere to safely paddle to if the going gets tough.
This spot off the coast of Half Moon Bay doesn't seem any more dangerous than the next Northern California surf spot. It, like many others, has the run-of-the-mill cold and shark-infested bay area waters surfers all know too well. However, this spot has something special that makes it much deadlier: The Cauldron. The Cauldron is a deep spot in the ocean below the waves that is constantly pulling in water as the waves go in and out. This geographical anomaly has been the reason surfers have been held underwater for two or more waves at a time. This spot has seen the deaths of big wave surfers Mark Foo and Sion Milosky, so not even the most seasoned surfers can escape its power.
This break on the rocky northern Spanish coast off the Igueldo Cliffs has unpredictable weather that reaches extremes. Multiple ships have met their ends here. While the rocks, sharp reefs and strong riptides are here year round, the waves aren't. Agiti's best barrels only show themselves under specific conditions. Its finicky nature makes it one of the country's newest big wave surf spots. The wave break is only a few hundred meters wide. If surfers ride the wave too long, they will meet their fate against enormous rocks. While most big wave spots allow for a jet-ski rescue if you're in trouble, Agiti is not the case.
Named for the oval shape the barrels take, this surf spot off the Esperance Coast in Australia is a relatively new spot to surf, and for good reason. These waves are only accessible by boat, and their heavy, chunky tops mimic the power of the top-heavy Teahupo'o. The depth change here is so dramatic that once the waves hit the reef, they can take some of the strangest shapes imaginable.
There you have it! As you can see, dangerous waves lurk in just about every corner of the world. If you're brave or foolhardy enough, give one of these spots a try and let us know how it goes. Good luck!